This story is by Leandra Alba and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
You won’t remember my name
The last time I stepped into the sea was the day she left me.
Walking had been the only reasonable thing left for me to do, moving one leg after the other, and allowing my body to just go, not minding right then the wind that made my hair dance, nor the cold that seeped into my blouse, nor the fact that the tears had already dried over my face, and only their trace remained, hardening my skin as if I had been wearing that sweater she loved to see me steal, even when her words were saying something her eyes betrayed.
Because, after all, what better memory of us than the contradictions that had drenched the lifetime of our relationship?
Because I knew I had been expecting it.
As she talked, as her eyes moved and jumped and danced and set their sights at everyplace but mine, I already knew what she would say, with the same certainty one knows that when the waves recede, only the sand would remain, smooth and free and clean of everything that had stood there before. Free of every expectation, and dream and whatever future we had thought of building together.
And yet it still hurt. Until it didn’t. I had felt so much, and then so little, but it was the water what had untangled the mess of emotions I had held deep inside, a gentle wave caressing my feet, trying to get my attention, and for me to acknowledge it again, and hear their words, as they’d call me their daughter again.
I hadn’t thought of the sea for so long, and it felt like a betrayal, and the pain stung as much as it had done the first time we parted ways, when the earth was younger still and so much younger was I.
And so I cried, emotions flaring up again, freed up after years of longing, drowning my mind with memories of everything I had knew would come back to hurt me, from the very first time she had left go of my hand, and I had opted to ignore it, and the many signs, for asking questions would only make those fears real, and turn the dreams stormy nightmares.
But that shoe never dropped, had it? Not until it did. She was simply as scared as I was, and we were both young and naïve, and had bet our everything on our love, and how it’d champion everything in the end, remove the sword in the stone and find a Holy Grail and heal any riff our lives were having when instead of growing closer we were feeling farther away.
Hearing the words, though, had made everything true, and calm, and terrible, time becoming a dense miasma that dragged back every word and every moment and every glance, as I saw her eyes growing apart, telling me she wasn’t mine anymore.
And I couldn’t blame her, of course. Leaving the sea had been my choice, and mine alone, for my heart belonged to me and so my mind, even if she had reigned both, but it had come with a price, and the cost had become too heavy for her to bear, and the more we tried, the alien she felt, as if whatever spell that had draw us together had long ago expired, and if was by will alone that we had remained sharing our bed and home and life, perhaps from the very first time, when the light had gone off at that pub, and I had mustered the courage to ask her out and kiss her, and tell her so many things that would never happen.
Back then, the coldness of the water wouldn’t match the one I held inside, but it reign familiar and sweet, and the waves sang around me, forming ribbons of foam, dark and blue, and tall, and wild, asking me to join them again.
And it had felt easy, taking that one step forward. And another. And another. Letting the ocean carry me over, and hug me in her veil, and fill me completely. The voice of the sea sang in the ways I couldn’t describe, not with this human lips, and offered much, and asked for so little. Why would I say no? Why would I reject its offer when it could make me part of her own, turning myself back into what I had been, before I had let my heart decide and the curiosity of life had won over the wisdom of the sea.
But I say no.
And I open my eyes. I feel it flow away, I sense its sadness leaving with it, leaving me behind, the lost daughter of its deepness, even when it pained it, giving me another chance as it read my heart and giving me another life to go back to her, and show her my truth, and the love I kept hidden inside.
So I’m ready now. I am. There is no more fighting left inside. No need for it. Not when I have already given it all, and not even the sea would heal the wounds this woman had entrenched in my soul, and even if it means letting it finally go, shedding out of a husk embroidered in stories and tales, and becoming one of them, I take the step, and I walk, whispering my love for the nature I say goodbye, and I move away, living it behind, with a single lasting thought entrenched in my mind for just another second, just enough for me to hear, and forget. Its last goodbye, and the price I have chosen now to pay.
You won’t remember my name.